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Apr 29, 2010

Healthy Living stays cool in the heat

heat - skyThis past Sunday and Monday, we experienced record breaking temperatures for this time of the year.  Temperatures soared to as high as 99 degrees. The sweltering heat affected many persons, that’s because as the heat turns up so do internal temperatures. This can cause exhaustion, cramps and strokes so Healthy Living this week has useful tips on how to deal with the heat we are likely to face in the coming months.

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

It’s hard to miss the start of the dry season here in Belize. The mid ninety to over hundred degree weather is normally a difficult adjustment following the cool season in the past months. Even though most Belizeans should be acclimatized to these temperatures, we still feel the effects of the blistering sun and for some even the hazards of excessive heat. Dr. Johanne Perez explains how the body responds to such heat.

Dr. Johanne Perez, General Physician, Caye Caulker Clinic

“Our body normally tries to remove heat from the environment in a couple of ways; one of them is sweating so then as you have sweat on your skin, it evaporates and you lose heat that way. The other way is you lose heat by something called conduction whereby youre losing heat from the skin to the ambient environment. But there comes a point whenever the temperature goes above ninety-nine degrees where that gradient shifts from your cold skin to the hot environment stops. So let’s say you reach like a hundred degrees its more difficult for your body to lose heat to the environment. Of course, then that means that your internal temperature will start to go up.”

So while sweating is the body’s natural air conditioning, when a person’s body temperature rises rapidly, sweating just isn’t enough. When the body loses its ability to cool itself down, it becomes susceptible to heat related illnesses and other side effects.

Dr. Johanne Perez

dr. johanne perez

dr. johanne perez

“Certainly as the temperature goes up you can experience things like headache nausea dizziness some people have stomach upset you can experience falls in blood pressure you can even experience fainting or complete loss of consciousness. These are due to the fact that youre losing water and of course the temperature rises the higher the temperature the more difficult body functions become and you can experience the severe complications.”

Heat exhaustion, Heat cramps and Heat stroke are three conditions that can be caused by scorching temperatures.

Dr. Johanne Perez

“With heat exhaustion you can have the persons internal temperature starting to raise, raising to a level that is not life threatening but again you can experience nausea, headache, you may still be sweating, you can experience even sometimes even people have diarrhoea. From there you can experience what some people call heat syncope, basically a type of fainting the individual normally has the same symptoms I just mentioned except that now they have a loss of consciousness. Those individuals are normally more dehydrated and also that they have lost salt. As we are sweating we are losing salt and that in itself leads to heat cramps. And heat cramps, as it says, you get cramps in the larger muscles. The treatment for any one of those is cooling down the individual.”

Heat stroke is the most severe condition and is considered a medical emergency. Complications of this condition may lead to severe brain damage or even death.

Dr. Johanne Perez

“Heat stroke is a multi-factorial. Theres a lot of loss of water, there’s a loss of sodium, there is a lot of what we call inflammatory markers, these are chemicals that you have in your blood and your body is basically trying to cope with whats going on. With people that have heat stroke you have again the severe loss of consciousness, you have the internal core temperature s very high, if you measure the temperature it maybe one hundred and four to one hundred and six and above. They will be delirious you try to talk to them they dont really answer you or they will be completely unconscious.”

It is imperative to get medical attention immediately for a person experiencing a heat stroke. Here are some tips to deal with heat exhaustion and cramps:

  • Move the person out of the sun into an air conditioned area, or shade
  • Fan the person
  • Take off any unnecessary clothes
  • Squirt water on them
  • Apply Cold wet towels
  • Place the person on their side: This would be good in case s/he vomits and exposes more body surface for cooling

People who are overweight, those who suffer heart disease, the elderly and mentally challenged persons are most at risk for heat related illnesses but the young and healthy are not exempted. Here are some tips on how to cope with the heat:

  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Stay in air-conditioned areas when possible
  • Cool off by taking a cool bath and air drying
  • Do not cool children in alcohol baths
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing
  • NEVER leave anyone in closed, parked cars during hot weather
  • Do not bundle babies in blankets or heavy clothing

Most importantly, the dry season ends when the rainy season sets in. This is typically after the third week in May, in the south, early June, in the central region, and mid June, up north.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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2 Responses for “Healthy Living stays cool in the heat”

  1. Therese says:

    very informative!!!

  2. cg says:

    thank you. i’ve always wondered how serious a heat stroke can be

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